Eliminated Debaters as Adjudicators?

In the Northeastern US we are having a bit of trouble, in my opinion, with judge diversity in elimination debates. I think that an important element of a good debate regimen is having to persuade a wide and varied group of people as opposed to having the convenience of targeting your arguments for specific types of people or even for specific individuals.

Here are some arguments from Paul Gross of the University of Vermont in favor of allowing debaters who did not break as judges in elimination rounds. I find this issue quite interesting and totally unresolved in my mind. I think it contains some elements of both issues - too much variety and at the same time too much specific targeting. But let me know what you think. We should have a wide and detailed debate about this idea.

Hi Steve,

It's my view that debaters who reach elimination rounds, but are eliminated before the final round, should be added to the pool of judges.

1) Elimination rounds, uniquely, benefit from an excellent panel of judges. Though it is not always the case, elimination rounds tend to be closer, more complicated debates that get decided based on small issues--the sorts of debates where the 2nd and 3rd might be separated by only a speaker point. Also, unlike in preliminary rounds, debaters do not have the opportunity to recover from a 3rd place they might not have deserved. For these two reasons, decisions in elimination rounds are especially tricky and important and would benefit from having the best variety of judges on the panel. 

2) Strong debaters tend to make strong judges. Again, this is not always the case, but oftentimes those debaters who perform well at the activity (as evidenced by their reaching the elimination rounds) benefit from the perspective of being a current competitor and being familiar with the ever evolving norms and standards of the activity, which is an important (but certainly not the only) lens through which to view the debate. Also, if you look at the many of the most respected judges around the world in this format, they tend to be recently graduated or even current debaters. (Chris Croke from Sydney and Doug Cochran from Cambridge, for example, were high ranking judges at Worlds 2009 and 2010, respectively). Seeing this trend, and recognizing that elimination rounds require strong panels of judges, it makes sense to include current strong debaters in the pool. Of course, there is no obligation to include all debaters who fall out before the final round in the pool. Indeed, it is likely that debaters who are also strong judges will emerge and that debaters who feel less comfortable judging will recuse themselves anyway.

3) For the most part, debate communities are civil, friendly, and compassionate groups of people. Undoubtedly, debaters who lose rounds sometimes feel resentment towards the teams that beat them immediately after the round. However, typically this resentment is short-lived, as debaters are likely to get another chance to face each other only a few weeks later and may even socialize that very evening. Especially in a small community, like our own in the Northeast, it is probably even the case that almost all top performing teams have both won and lost against most other teams who are likely to reach elimination rounds. Partially for these reasons, it seems unlikely to me that debaters will hold grudges or make unfair decisions based on the results of previous debates they may have had with the competitors that they are now judging. Furthermore, if this practice became the norm, there would be an additional deterrent against making unfair or biased decisions, namely that you might be judged in an elimination round by one of these debaters next tournament. If, in fact, there were some kind of extreme circumstance where it was likely that a debater could not make a decision fairly, that debater could recuse herself or be recused at the behest of the chief adjudicator.

Paul